According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy drivers cause about 100,000 accidents per year. When the drowsy driver is operating a vehicle that weighs several tons, the results can be disastrous.
It is no surprise that safety agencies set strict rules that force drivers to take breaks so that they can catch up on their sleep. These rules are called “hours of service,” and drivers who break them can be held reliable for the damage they cause. But what about drivers who follow the rules but don’t fall asleep?
First, a lesson on personal injury lawsuits
If a drowsy truck driver injures you in a collision, you can seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. The money helps you pay for medical bills, lost wages and “compensate” you for other damages, but you must prove a few things first.
While there are many nuances in the facts and law that can impact your case, there are four basic elements:
- Duty of care: You would have to prove that the truck driver had a duty to operative his vehicle in a safe, reasonable and responsible manner.
- Breach of the duty of care: You would have to prove that the truck driver did something that wasn’t safe, reasonable responsible.
- Causation: You must show that the truck driver’s actions caused your injuries, physical or otherwise.
- Damages: You must show that you in fact suffered harm or loss.
So, must you prove that a truck driver failed to comply with the rules of service?
When a truck driver breaks the rules, like driving too many hours in a row, is a good indication that they breached the duty of care. But if you notice, the elements don’t say “broke a law.” They talk about duty of care and acting in a safe, reasonable and responsible manner.
A truck driver who takes the appropriate time off but does not sleep in those hours can still become drowsy. The signs of fatigue are easy to spot, from yawning to nodding off. They symptoms include swerving, tailgating or inattention.
What do you think? Do you think the average person can tell when they are tired? Would you consider it safe and reasonable for someone to continue driving when they can’t keep their eyes open?